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Neill remembered for capturing LV’s history

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Bill Neill relaxes on the porch of his downtown La Verne home in 2008. He and his wife Charlotte moved into the house on Third Street when they returned to the University of La Verne in 1988. / file photo by Sheila Del Castillo

Emily Lau
Editor in Chief

Bill Neill, University of La Verne alumnus and former professor of communications, died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at the age of 82.

Mr. Neill was a prominent public television producer as well as a prolific videographer who captured the University’s history for more than three decades.

He donated his video collection to the University, which is now kept in the archives and special collections in the Wilson Library. Some videos are available on the library’s YouTube channel @ulvwilsonlibrary.

“He also became a historian of the University, using his video skills to document the life and growth of the campus,” President Devorah Lieberman said in a campus-wide email. “It is a legacy that will live at the University for years to come.”

Mr. Neill graduated from the University, then known as La Verne College, with a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a master’s degree in educational technology in 1977. At La Verne, he played on the basketball team, sang in a choir and worked on the Campus Times.

After graduation, he worked for KOCE-TV, an Orange County-based PBS-affiliated channel, as a producer and director. He also filmed documentaries around the world and was nominated for five Emmy Awards.

Mr. Neill then returned to the University in 1988 as a professor of communications and taught television production classes. He served as the general manager for LVTV, La Verne Community Television, and was instrumental in shaping the program to what it is today.

Mike Laponis, professor of communications, who worked with Mr. Neill on various projects, commended him for bringing professionalism to the communications department.

“That was what he liked the most – getting the students professional level experience so they can move to their chosen career paths,” Laponis said. “He took great pride in that and appreciated what they were able to accomplish.”

George Keeler, professor of journalism, also worked with Mr. Neill and remembers his efforts to shape the curriculum.

“He took us outside of our department and put us into this professional arena where our students were doing work for the city of La Verne,” Keeler said.

Even after leaving his teaching position, Mr. Neill remained an active member of the La Verne community. He recorded video of events on campus including the Scholarship Gala, the University’s centennial celebration and construction of new buildings.

“Scarcely an event took place where Bill Neill wasn’t there out front with his video camera, and so he saw himself with this mission to document the history of La Verne,” Keeler said.

Ben Jenkins, archivist for the Wilson Library, met Mr. Neill earlier this year and was astounded by the collection.

“They have really uncovered lots of history that would have gone unrecorded otherwise,” Jenkins said. “He wanted a place to put that where it would be useful to people, where students, faculty and staff would be able to enjoy it and to use it.”

Mr. Neill is remembered for his contributions to preserving ULV’s history and shaping the communications department.

“Bill made a difference in our department and will be terribly missed,” Keeler said. “He launched us toward the future and what we are now: professional and engaged in industry work.”

Mr. Neill is survived by his wife, Charlotte, two sons, Tom and Roger, and grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Church of the Brethren in La Verne.

Joshua Bay also contributed to this story.

Emily Lau can be reached at emily.lau@laverne.edu.

Sheila Del Castillo

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